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Wed, Jul. 5th, 2006, 10:24 pm
Ephrata Cloister

If you're in central Pennsylvania near Lancaster you HAVE to see the Ephrata Cloister. It's an early 18th-century German protestant pseudo-monastic religious community.


After visiting Subiaco Abbey and Academy last month for my 20-year reunion, I had a rare chance to compare the Subiaco experience with a religious community that attempted to reinterpret monastic life.

Fathers and Brothers and alumni of Subiaco would have a uniquely surreal experience at the Ephrata Cloister. It is a must-see for contemporary monastic clergy.

The young female tour guide wore a white monastic robe in the style of the brothers and sisters of the cloister. I told her about Subiaco and she told me about the anti-Catholic stance of the Ephrata founder, which I thought was funny considering how much of what he created seemed imitative of Catholicism.

Ephrata Cloister features 18th-century German architecture, 18th-century German farming and cooking, High German spiritual quotations on the wall authored by the founder, led by a tour guide wearing a white monk's robe, all provided in a reinterpreted Twilight Zone museum atmosphere.

-Basil White